Chapter 51

                  Celebrían could only stare from her place in the center of Caras Galadhon. 

My family, my whole family is here?

She stood, paralyzed, watched her children and husband dismount.  She noted the bandages on each of Elrond's hands with a note of worry.

He is not one to be hurt lightly.

                  " Nana!"  Elladan's call pulled her from her thoughts.

                  Celebrían broke forth from her stupor, running to them as quickly as she could.

                  " Elladan, Elrohir,"  She paused, glancing at the beautiful young woman, " Arwen.  My children and," She paused again, looking at Elrond.  Her voice sounded oddly flat.  " Elrond."

Elrond simply nodded, noting she did not call him her husband.

                  " I came to escort Arwen here."  He explained, leaving her no disillusions of why he was here.

Celebrían's expression fell visbly.  She managed a small smile.

                  " I should have known."  She looked at Arwen, standing beside Elrond with an apprehensive expression.  " She is your jewel; always has been and always will."

                  " I am his Undómiel."  Arwen corrected, gently taking her father's hand gently with a worried look.

Elrond smiled lovingly down at her, pulling her close and allowing his chin to rest on hers.  Arwen's whole being relaxed with contentment. 

I once was like her, so happy to just be with him.  What happened?  Where did it go wrong? 

                  Suddenly, Celebrían and Elrond were alone, staring at each other.  Their children had ran off, seeing their grandparents.  Elrond gently ran his left hand over the back of his neck in a nervous expression.  Celebrían bit her lips slightly, glancing at the Elves milling around.

                  " You are well?"  She broke the silence.

He glanced up, an unfamiliar darkness lurking behind his eyes.

                  " As well as can be expected."

Celebrían heard a hint of irony in his voice, but did not pursue it.

                  " I meant your hands.  What happened?"

                  Elrond glanced down at the bandages.

                  " I cut one and burnt the other.  Two very unfortunate accidents that have left me unable to write or do any of my duties."

Celebrían took his hands.

                  " The bandages need to be changed after that ride.  I could look at them."

Elrond began to protest.  She held up a hand.

                  " I insist as your wife."

Elrond's eyes darkened further, his eyes falling on her wedding ring.

                  " Ironic, it is.  We have been married for centuries upon centuries, yet we can barely talk to each other."

Celebrían lifted her chin.

                  " Twas not I who was stubborn."

Elrond's lips tightened.  He turned on his heel, only to run into Celeborn.  Elrond bit back a curse as Celeborn grabbed his hand to help steady him.

" Are you well, Elrond?"  Celeborn asked softly, beginning to escort the Elf away, out of the public eye.

" I was in a hurry to leave, Celeborn."  Elrond glared down at his throbbing hand.

" I did not know my daughter, your wife," Celeborn empathized the words, your wife, before continuing, " Was unpleasant company."

Elrond glanced up with dark eyes.

                  " Neither did I.  Until she begins to blame me for this feud."  Elrond held up a hand.  " She could at least take half the blame.  It takes two to make a dispute."

Celeborn chuckled.

                  " Well said, Elrond.  Now come, those bandages should be changed."

                  She crept through the talan, before kneeling by Elrond.  Celebrían's gentle hand brushed his burnt right hand.  Elrond winced in his sleep, his eyes flying open. 

                  " What are you doing here?"  Elrond asked groggily, rubbing his eyes.

Celebrían put a finger to his lips.

                  " I came to watch you.  Go back to sleep.  This was never more than a dream."

Elrond stared at her a moment before he did lie down, succumbing to dreams again.  Celebrían watched him through the night.

                  Elrond watched his children with the other Lórien youngsters.  He recognized few of them, for he had not been to Lórien since before his wedding.  Elrond leaned on the railing.  He was acutely aware of her presence behind him.  Her visit last night had renewed their mind link somehow.  Her hand fell on the small of his back.

                  " Would you like a tour of Lórien?"

Elrond glanced at her.

                  " I guess it would not hurt."

Celebrían shook her head.

                  " Nay, you have nothing else to do and it is not like you will ever return to Lórien again."

Elrond bit back a sharp remark, merely nodding and motioning for her to lead them.

                  Celebrían anxiously watched him as he glanced around her talan.  She watched him move towards the balcony overlooking the great city with a smile.  He completed the talan.  He had been the thing missing for so long.  She watched him, a nostalgic smile on her lips.  Elrond glanced back at her.

                  " Do I have something on my face?"

Celebrían laughed softly.  She walked up to him.

                  " No, I was just remembering."  She hooked arms with him.  " Do you remember when we first came here?"

Elrond sighed.

                  " How could I ever forget?"  He glanced down at her, smoldering passion lurking behind his eyes.  " I was with you."

Celebrían tilted her head, her lips parting alluringly.

                  " Stay here with me.  We can forget this whole quarrel, just stay here."

Elrond pulled his head back just before his lips would have met hers.

                  " Why, Celebrían?"  He turned away from her.  " Why will you forget this if I stay here?  Why will you not forget it and come back?"  He looked at her.  " Come home."

Celebrían sighed, looking away.  Elrond crossed the space between them.

                  " If you tell me it is for my image that you would forget this dispute, I will leave this talan and Lórien and never come back."

Celebrían remained silent, the words on the tip of her tongue, but not on her voice.  Elrond shook his head and then turned to leave.  Celebrían put a hand to her head.

                  " I love you, Elrond."  She whispered.

                  Elrond froze in mid-step.  He turned slowly.

                  " Really?"  His eyes bore a longing to believe her.

Celebrían moved forward, tears in her eyes.

                  " I do."  She lifted his left hand, kissing the bandage over his palm gently.  " I carved these vows in this ring myself."

Celebrían tugged his chin down, capturing his lips at long last.  Elrond gave in slightly, before breaking it off and taking a few steps back.

                  " Things cannot just automatically go back to how they were, Celebrían.  I have changed.  You have changed.  The words we said cannot be thrown into the wind.  I will always remember them."

Celebrían stared up at him.

                  " The things you said hurt me also and I am willing to forget them."

Elrond's eyes flared.

                  " Tell me what I said that grieved you."

Celebrían watched him brush by.  She racked her mind and found she could not retrieve one ill word he had ever said.

2463

                  Elrond looked over the council naming the influential characters in his mind.

Mithrandir, Saruman, Celeborn, Galadriel, ah, there's Círdan…

Elrond's eyes continued to roam, resting on his sons sitting on either side of Glorfindel.

Those three had best behave.

Elrond's lips lifted slightly when Erestor seated himself behind them.  Glorfindel glanced back with an agitated expression.  The Twins glanced back also, annoyed expressions on their face.

I wonder what they had planned.

Elrond chuckled to himself.  Those three had interrupted many councils before with their antics. 

                  " Should you not be down there also, Master Elrond?"

                  Elrond turned, his mouth half agape.

                  " Celebrían."  Her name tumbled from his lips before he could stop it.

She was there, straightening his collar and glancing over his appearance like old times.

                  " I brought Arwen to see you.  She missed you."  Celebrían touched his cheek.  " Namari, I set out for Lórien again."

Elrond caught her hand.

                  " You would not stay one night?"

Celebrían paused and then shook her head.

                  " Nay, not even one more hour."

Elrond watched her go, his spirits falling.  With a stern face, he began down the stairs to enter the council.

                  Elladan stifled yet another yawn.  He heard Erestor clear his throat in disapproval.  Noise reigned as Elves argued amongst themselves.  Glorfindel turned around to glare at Erestor.

                  " Would you lay off?"

Erestor just smiled diabolically.

                  " Not when I enjoy annoying you so much."

Glorfindel's eyes glowed.  Elrohir pulled the Elf so that he could speak with him.

                  " What is wrong with Ada?"

Glorfindel glanced back at Erestor who had noticed it also.  Erestor leaned forward.

                  " Vision."

                  Elrond's sigh had flown not too far from the council.  He found himself hovering over a river.  In the quickly approaching distance, two hobbits in a boat became clearer.  They cheerfully talked as they threw fishing lines in.  It was one of the hobbit's birthday from what information the conversation provided Elrond.  Minutes later, things went drastically wrong.  The two hobbits fought and one killed the other.  Elrond felt himself drawn closer so he could look over the murdering hobbit's shoulder.  Two brutally frightening words branded themselves in his mind as a plain gold ring was revealed.

                  " My precious."

                  Elrond sat in his study, mulling over his vision as he played with a glass of wine.

So after all these years, it has been found…

                  " I know.  I had hoped it had flown down the Anduin and into the Sea."

Elrond glanced up his sharp gaze threatening to kill the intruders.  He titled up his chin, standing and retriving more glasses for his guests. 

                  Galadriel, Celeborn, Círdan, Saruman and Mithrandir sat across from him as Elrond filled each glass with something from his own personal vintage collection.  Galadriel pushed aside her glass.

                  " We know that there is a new master for the Ring.  I…"  She glanced at her husband and then the wizards with an odd glance.  "  I saw a vision of one putting it on his finger."

Elrond leaned back.

What is it, Galadriel?

Galadriel looked down at her glass.

Speak naught of the Three around Saruman.  His end is not like ours.

Elrond leaned back with a contemplating expression.

                  " I saw it also.  Tis a hobbit.  I do not know his name or anything."  He glanced up, his words having a greater meaning then some could tell.  "The Three must be especially careful now.  I wish that the owners would reveal themselves."

                  Saruman glanced up with an inquiring expression.

                  " There are rumors that you are one of the bearers, Elrond."

Elrond lifted up his hands.

                  " I wear no ring, Saruman."

Saruman nodded.

                  " I can see that, but that does not mean you do not bear a ring."

Elrond shrugged.

                  " I guess we are at an impasse then."

                  Elrond gazed at the sapphire ring.  It glittered, tiny speaks of light caught eternally within the dark depths reminding Elrond of the clear night sky.  He smiled slightly before frowning.

What was it you saw, Ereinion that made you pass this to me?

Elrond sighed.

Write that down as just another question to ask you when I cross these waters…